Hallucinogen uses go back for centuries and have been beneficial in forms of healing and spiritual practices, for sure, but, the dangers that hallucinogen abusers face today is extra cause for alarm. Organic and synthetic hallucinogens are promoted for everything from relaxation to out of body experiences with questionable consequences, chemical variants, and the true effects differing from one person to the next. Let’s just say that, in every human being, the different biological make-ups and the way that their central nervous system responds to internal and external influences will never follow the same neurological pathways as the next person when using hallucinogens.
Compounded by the chemical variants of the drug itself, the way it is used, the environment used in, and extraction or synthesizing methods, every hallucinogen experience can be a different result in cognition, emotions, behaviors, or bodily responses than those previously and afterwards. In the least, according to John H. Halpern, MD, an expert on hallucinogens with the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Center and the Biological Psychiatry Laboratory, McLean Hospital, “hallucinogens are predictably, unpredictable.”
Hallucinogen Dangers of Today
Hallucinogens come from many natural sources including plants and fungi and in each source the chemical derivatives can differ. In contrast, their counterparts, synthetic hallucinogens, are made and distributed through a whole chain of undeterminable sources with chemical variants changing dramatically from one dose to the next. Designer drugs disguised as products “not for human consumption” are notably some of these most dangerous drugs.
According to the DEA, “Many hallucinogens are Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning that they have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.”
Divided into the three categories, hallucinogens are generally classified as:
- Psychedelics – (LSD, psilocybin (magic mushrooms), and PCP) which cause distortions of time, movement, space, shapes, sizes, colors, and sounds. These drugs can make it hard to discern what is real or not and can lead to frightening experiences or “bad trips”
- Dissociatives – (Ketamine, PCP, DXM, and Salvia) cause distorted sensations such as the sense of “floating” or disconnection from self and reality.
- Deliriants – (Benadryl and angel trumpets) which cause delirium
In today’s world, chemistry designs of hallucinogens are often altered or modified to elicit a broad range of effects similar to these drugs, but, with powerful and uncertain consequences including stimulant effects to boost moods and energy, which ultimately leads to some of the most horrendous neurological effects that continue their disruptions in the mind and body long after the hallucinogen high is over.
Adverse Physical Hallucinogen Effects
Too often, people looking for the certain psychic effects that they expect the hallucinogen to produce will backfire into the opposite effects and become their worst nightmare. We have all heard of “bad trips” on hallucinogens and for the experienced abuser, these conditions can ignite anticipations for the better trip next time, but, for some, the next time is even worse.
Adverse physical effects of hallucinogens increase the vulnerabilities to assaults, falls, injuries, rapes, and death. Unfortunately, according to the DEA, “Deaths generally occur due to suicide, accidents, and dangerous behavior, or due to the person inadvertently eating poisonous plant material.”
Dangerous physical effects may include:
- Respiratory distress
- Extremely high temperature or dehydration
- Loss of coordination
- Extreme weakness, fatigue, paralysis, or tremors
- Increased sensitivity or sensitivity loss
- Blindness or tunnel vision
- Coma, blackouts
- Inability to speak or speech difficulties
- Convulsions or seizures
Adverse Psychological Hallucinogen Effects
The most adverse psychological effects of hallucinogens are hallucinations, of course, but, other psychological conditions of hallucinogen abusers during intoxication and detox are often prevalent, including:
- Suicidal or harmful tendencies
- Anxiety, panic, fear
- Sleep disturbances
- Memory loss
- Cognitive impairments – inability to focus, decreased awareness, loss of judgment and reasoning, or disorganized thought patterns
- Psychosis including extreme paranoia, delirium, mania, and schizophrenic-like behaviors
- Flashbacks or hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD)
Long-term Complications of Hallucinogen Abuse
Depending on the individual and the type, amounts, and duration of hallucinogen abuse, tolerance to hallucinogens are generally short lived and few withdrawals are left to contend with after a few days of melancholy and depression. Exceptions must be made however, for those toxic and combination effects that, too often, are a part of the allure and found in hallucinogens today.According to the SAMHSA, “Withdrawal syndromes have not been reported with hallucinogens; however, considerable attention has been paid to residual effects such as delayed perceptual illusions with anxiety, “flashbacks,” residual psychotic symptoms, and long-term cognitive impairment.”
This is not to say that hallucinogen abuse leaves no long term complications, but, to reiterate concerns of unpredictability. A single hallucinogen experience can lead to distressing “flashbacks” described by the American Psychiatric Association as re-experiencing “perceptual symptoms that were experienced during intoxication with the hallucinogens (eg, geometric hallucinations, false perceptions of movement in the peripheral visual fields, flashes of color, intensified colors, trails of images of moving objects, positive afterimages, halos around objects, and macropsia and micropsia.” Depression, psychosis, and cognitive deficits can be conditions that diminish in a few days or last indefinitely.
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